McCarthy's fat days are over
Benni McCarthy (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - A trim looking Benni McCarthy said on Tuesday he was ready to play for his new club, Orlando Pirates, and there were no concerns about his fitness after signing a two-year deal with the Buccaneers.
When McCarthy returned to South Africa last year for the Bafana Bafana World Cup training camp, the media was rife with stories about his weight and suspect fitness, and he subsequently did not make the final squad.
After spending time in pre-season training with Ajax Cape Town, however, the striker said he firmly believed he was ready to tackle the new Absa Premiership season with the defending champions.
"Ajax is a team that I have a lot of respect for, and I have friends there, and I just asked if I could train with them to stay fit," McCarthy said after there was speculation he might join the Cape side.
"I can play today, tomorrow and the day after.
"I feel it's probably because I'm hungry to play again.
"I've not played in a while, so if I can get onto the pitch it will be great because I want to play so much I think I can play three games in a row."
McCarthy did concede though, at the age of 33, he would need to pace himself, not just for the coming season but for the next two years.
"I'm not saying I can play as much as that (three days in a row) throughout the season, and that's where the fitness coaches and the coaches will instruct me," he said.
"They will show me how I should pace myself because it's not about the next three months - it's about the next two seasons."
McCarthy, the record goal scorer for the national team, alluded to the fact that his former English club, West Ham United, had not given him as much game time as he would have liked, and he aimed to become an integral part of the Pirates outfit.
He left West Ham in April after his contract was terminated by mutual consent.
"I want to be part of the team and play at least 95 percent of the games," McCarthy said.
"That means being a part of everything once I sit down with the technical staff and probably work out where my level (of fitness) is at now and when I will be ready to step up.
"In my 14 or 15 years of playing in Europe I've never had an operation and when I went to West Ham it happened that I got injured.
"So that was a setback, but lucky for me it came when I was heading to the stage where I was finishing my career and my age was against me.
"If I had been injured like that when I was with Porto (between 2002 and 2006) I would have been devastated, but I look at my time being injured as a learning experience."
Known for his goal-scoring and finishing ability, McCarthy said he had set himself lofty goals with his new club.
"The way Pirates play, they provide many opportunities to score with attractive football," he said.
"If you're hungry and you put yourself at the right place at the right time, I think there's more than 20 goals to score in the league.
"I still have a good few years in me, and I want to feel what it's like to be a champion in South Africa."
In a lengthy career, McCarthy has played for Ajax Amsterdam (Holland), Celta Vigo (Spain), Blackburn Rovers (England) and West Ham.
He was also part of the Porto (Portugal) side that won the Champions League in 2004.
Meanwhile, Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza said the club would be releasing nine players on transfer and loan.
The players included Penyo Mongalo, who was going on loan to Bloemfontein Celtic, as well as Joseph Kamwendo, Siphelele Mthembu, Dennis Masina, Wilson Shendzelani, Thando Mdluli, Siyabonga Zulu, Patrick Malokase and Mzondi Mthombeni who were all on transfer.